AYER -- Nothing is more frustrating for a team than to see a lead slip away. On Thursday afternoon, the Ayer-Shirley girls soccer team put together a dominant first half in grabbing a 2-0 lead in an attempt to pick up their second win of the season. Things turned in the second half as visiting Parker scored twice and the Lady Panthers could not find the net, settling for a 2-2 tie in non-league action.
"I thought we carried the flow of play for most of the game and spaced the ball extremely well today," said Ayer-Shirley Coach Justin Carlson. "We just didn't put enough shots on net. I thought there were times where we had a good shot but we tried to make an extra pass to get a great shot. There were some chances that we let slide the board, and while it is nice to get a point, it would have been better to leave with two."
Early on, the Lady Panthers forced the issue, putting three shots on goal in the opening five minutes, but Parker goalkeeper Alanna Girardin (six saves) was there to come up with saves. It wasn't until the 9:30 mark that the Lady Panthers put home the game's first goal. Off a free kick from 25 yards out, Ginger Gamelin lofted a shot just out of the reach of Girardin's outstretched hands and under the crossbar to make it a 1-0 game.
At the 14:00 mark, Ayer-Shirley doubled their lead on a nifty give-and-go. Olivia Warlia sent a pass to Holly Caires, who then quickly sent a pass back to Warlia, who chipped a shot over a charging Girardin that slipped just inside the right post from 10 yards out to give the Lady Panthers a 2-0 advantage.
Over the remainder of the half, Ayer-Shirley continued to keep the pressure up on offense, coming up with five more shots on target, but three went wide and two were stopped by Girardin. Despite holding a 10-2 advantage in shots on target, the Lady Panthers left the half holding only a two-goal lead.
"Our first half was solid, but it could have been better," said Carlson. "I thought our passing was really good and defensively we didn't give up a lot of chances. Justine Carrillo was strong at sweeper and Gabby Hebert did a nice job off the bench of being physical and playing the ball."
Just over seven minutes into the second half, an Ayer-Shirley turnover led to Parker cutting the lead in half. A misplayed pass was intercepted by Paige Senatore, who made a 35-yard run before lining a shot into the top right corner from 10 yards away over Lady Panthers goalkeeper Melissa Belanger (three saves) to get within one at 2-1.
Twelve minutes later, the same scenario played out with a different Parker player picking up the goal. A scramble ensued in front of the Ayer-Shirley net and a misplayed clearance attempt was picked up by Allie Gesin, who put a shot into an open net from point-blank range to tie the game at 2-2.
In the final 20 minutes of the game, each team had chances go by the board. The Lady Panthers had two chances set up by Cassidy Manna; one in the 61st minute by Cayla Justice was saved by a charging Girardin, the second seven minutes later by Caires hit off the crossbar. Parker's chance to claim a win in the 76th minute was turned away as Belanger made a great kick save of a Gesin shot. The game ended in a 2-2 draw.
"Melissa came up with a big save late that preserved the tie, and I thought she played well today," said Carlson. "There were some good things today, but we just need to get better at taking shots when they present themselves."